Maja Vasilijevic is the Chair of the Transboundary Conservation Specialist Group of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA).
What is Transboundary Conservation?
Imagine two countries that share a national boundary and both of them recognize important ecosystems adjacent to this boundary in the form of protected areas. Each protected area is managed separately in both countries and conservation issues that could be addressed jointly are still managed individually. When protected area managers and countries decide to work together for the benefit of certain species or a habitat, we call that Transboundary Conservation. It is about conserving nature in a cooperative way by sharing responsibility for the management of a specific area. While transboundary co-management has tremendous conservation value, it also adds to socio-cultural, political and economic development in the concerned area.
How can Transboundary Conservation help nature conservation?
Transboundary Conservation presumes joint cross-border action in management of protected areas, whether it concerns joint management of invasive species, wildfire management, reintroduction of species, control of poaching, or any other important and mutually agreed management measure that will enhance biodiversity conservation. Essentially, Transboundary Conservation areas due to its cross-border cooperation can reduce the risk of loss of biodiversity. They are generally larger in size than single protected areas and normally entail connections in habitats which allow undisturbed species migration and less isolation. The key to any Transboundary Conservation initiative is cooperation and co-management which has the potential to be successful if common vision for the concerned area is negotiated and conservation strategies are harmonized.
What challenges do countries face when working on Transboundary Conservation?
Political indifference, lack of financial resources, language barriers are only some of the usual challenges that can hinder transboundary initiatives development, not to mention that there are potential challenging issues once the initiative is being implemented. These could refer to poor communication between partners, differences in legal systems, lack of law enforcement for example to combat illegal activities in parks. General challenges range from political factors, through economic disparities between countries, legal differences, to socio-cultural elements which can impact the initiative on the ground. The important thing is to have commitment and good will, primarily from protected area staff, to lead and manage the initiative.
What is in your experience the most successful example of Transboundary Conservation?
It is difficult to generalize as there are a number of successful Transboundary Conservation initiatives worldwide, in terms of efficient cooperation between key stakeholders and sustainability. To name just a couple of European examples, Wadden Sea (Denmark-Germany-the Netherlands) and Mercantour-Alpi Maritime (France-Italy) which have shown how Transboundary Conservation can make a difference. Both sites reflect the essence of Transboundary Conservation management, as well as coordinated monitoring and joint research. For example, the Wadden Sea Board represents a trilateral governing structure for the protection of the Wadden Sea and this joint governance was effective ever since the late 1970s.